The man behind the move to change Bangalore's name to 'Bengaluru' Jnanpith Award winner U R Ananthamurthy believes that English is killing the thirst for knowledge in India and has called for immediate steps to inculcate the love of the local language in school going children.
"Globalisation is forcing us to become unilingual, and we are willfully following it without even realizing that we are losing a great deal in return," Ananthamurthy, also former Chairman of Sahitya Akademi, told PTI at the recently concluded Afro-Asian Literary meet.
As the Chairman of the Central Advisory Board of Education, Ananthamurthy is trying to sell his concept of 'Common schools for Indian languages' to other members of the board. "Under this scheme, we will have schools having teachers of major Indian languages where children will have the option of choosing one language that they want to learn," he says.
It is still at a conceptual state and further work needs to be done, but Ananthamurthy is hopeful that his idea will be accepted. "In this way, we can influence the mind of children about the beauty of Indian languages and expand their horizons. It is important that we make them creative," he emphasizes.
It was Ananthamurthy's suggestion that Karnataka change its capital's name from the anglicized 'Bangalore' to 'Bengaluru,' which the government accepted despite heavy criticism. "When the whole Kannada community calls it Bengaluru, I see no reason why others should not call it by the same name," he asserts.
An English literature professor himself, Ananthamurthy sees no contradiction in what he teaches and preaches. "The great ancient Kannada writer Pampa knew Sanskrit but he wanted to write in Kannada as he wanted to reach his own people. In the same way, I may teach English but my tradition is Kannada and I consciously write in this language." he says, adding, "A writer chooses a language for its ethos and its ambience, and Kannada provides me that."
According to Ananthamurthy, the greatest tradition that Indian has is its various mother tongues and everybody should respect it by serving their mother tongue in any way they can. Some of Ananthamurthy's greatest works include Samskara, Bhava, Bharathi Pura and Avasthe.
Samskara has been translated into numerous languages in India and abroad including English, French, Russian and German. Ananthamurthy believes sharing his thoughts with his immediate audience - in this case the Kannada readers - gives him the biggest thrill. "For great literature, large audience is not important," he says, citing Shakespeare whose works, he says, were initially limited to audiences in and around London.
One of the most important representatives of the 'Navya' movement ('The new movement') in the Kannada literature, Ananthamurthy was awarded with India's highest literary award, the Jnanapith in 1994.
According to Ananthamurthy, despite the difficulties faced due to the onslaught of English, local languages are holding on to their own. "English in India just has a frontyard in form of English schools, where as all other Indian languages have a backyard and a frontyard, and it is from this fertile backyard from where we will have the talented writers local languages," he says.
The writer is a social and political activist. "I am a democratic liberal," he proclaims. Ask him if he is a bit of a leftist, he says, "I stand in the centre with a turn towards the left for fear of falling towards the right." He was also in the forefront of 'battle against communalism' and was not afraid of alienating some of his own audience. "I firmly believe that if you love your people, you need not please them always."